2002 Denver Annual Meeting (October 27-30, 2002)

Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 2:30 PM


O'CONNELL, Suzanne, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Wesleyan Univ, 265 Church St, Middletown, CT 06459, JANET, Morrison, Department of Chemistry, Trinity College, 300 Summit St, Hartford, CT 06106 and JEFFERY, Osborn, Greater Hartford Academy of Math and Sci, 15 Vernon St, Hartford, CT 06106, soconnell@wesleyan.edu

NSF statistics indicate few ethnic minorities (underrepresented groups) pursue careers in the geosciences. They earn 4.5% of bachelors, 3.3% of masters, and 5% of Ph.D.’s awarded in all of the geosciences. These statistics are in contrast to the total science and engineering degrees earned by ethnic minorities; bachelors 15%, masters 10.6% and Ph.D.’s 8.2%. In 2001, NSF provided funds for proposals that would increase the participation of these groups in the earth sciences. We received such funds to develop a two-year program to work with 9th and 10th grade students attending schools in Hartford, CT, where over 90% of the school population are ethnic minorities. Our hypothesis was that if students see the relevance of earth science to their lives and have an enjoyable time learning about and doing earth science they will consider an earth science career.

The Connecticut River and its Hartford area tributaries were our field area and we used the superb facilities of the Greater Hartford Academy of Math and Science. During the first summer (2002), we focused on water quality. Two different groups of students participated in a two-week program. The first group was recruited through meetings, a brochure and classroom visits. Few students applied and many that did were unable to participate due to conflicts (other science programs, sports camps, vacations, summer school and family obligations). This was a highly motivated group that easily learned a variety of sampling, measurement and data manipulation techniques. Students used TI-83 calculators with Vernier probes, spectrophotometry, titration, and flow meters. Data and calculation formulas were entered into Excel and graphed. After learning about the river properties and how to collect data, students applied their knowledge to address a research question. In the next phase sediment samples will be compared with side-scan images, river flow, and water and pore-water chemistry.

The second group was comprised of students from a single, largely Hispanic high school. For this group, our two-week research program followed four weeks of a summer school credit course taught in conjunction with two high school science teachers and students were paid to participate. The program will continue with monthly meeting during the academic year and a research program during summer 2003.